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Devin Booker made the Phoenix Suns a better team

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The narrative has changed for the better this time.

Phoenix Suns v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

This NBA season just might be over after 65 games because of health threats from this pandemic, cutting the cord on a 10th straight playoff-less season for a once-proud franchise that had the league’s 4th highest win rate over their first 42 years.

But the Suns did come close to a playoff seed this time. There were silver linings from this season that bode well for the Suns future.

One of those linings is...

Shooting guard Devin Booker proved he wasn’t just a looter in a riot.

That he would indeed help a competitive team win meaningful games while racking up eye-popping offensive stats.

In 2019-20, Booker was named to his first All-Star game while the Suns were battling for a playoff spot despite myriad injuries causing chunks of missed games all around him.

Booker was healthy this year, playing 62 of 65 possible games. If the season ends today, he will finish in a lot of league-wide Top-20 categories including

  • 2nd in total minutes played (4th in minutes per game)
  • 4th in free throws made (9th in attempts)
  • 6th in total points scored (10th in points per game)
  • 9th in shots made (11th in attempts)
  • 13th in assists (13th in potential assists; 11th in assist percent)
  • 14th in offensive win shares

This is the Booker that media and casual fans around the league called a good-stats-bad-team player, while in fact his impact improved as the team around him improved. The Suns were fighting for a playoff spot the entire season.

This is the Booker that local fans had begun to question a bit too. Could he stay healthy? With his bad defense, could he be the best player on a good team?

Booker stayed healthy this season. He missed only three games (forearm soreness) out of 65 and was just getting into another groove when the league suspended play.

Booker improved on defense too. While leading the team in minutes played and minutes per game, the Suns ranked 19th on defense out of 30 teams. No great shakes, but that’s good enough to make a playoffs and miles better than previous iterations. Booker and the team will improve further as they add maturity and get more comfortable in year two under Monty Williams.

Of course, the offense is Booker’s bread and butter. See all those top-20 spots above. The Suns as a team ranked 16th on offense this year and would have ranked a lot higher if teammates had been better at making wide open shots. The Suns as a team were 2nd in the league in generating wide open shots (26.2% of all shots taken), but only 11th in making them. On three-pointers it was even worse: 6th in frequency (21% of all 3s), 18th in making them.

The Suns got better. And Devin Booker was a huge reason why that happened.

Take a moment on a Sunday to watch some of Booker’s highlights from this past season.